In the gardens of the University of Münster there stands a monument that commemorates the German soldiers who fought in the First World War. Atop it stands a stone carving of a German soldier, head encased in stahlnhelm and body clothed by uniform and trench coat. Clutched tightly in the soldier’s hands is a long sword facing downwards, giving an impression of firm resolve. On the foundation plinth, a second, later plaque has also been affixed that refers to the actions of 26th Armoured Division in the Second World War.
Across the monument is daubed the word BLUT (blood) in crimson red.
In any other country, the daubing of the word upon such a monument would be met with mass outcry, an immediate clean-up campaign, and a public propaganda program to reaffirm the respect “the nation” holds for the military and its sacrificial dead. This however is Germany, the exception to the rule of reaction, where the nation state is obliged to beat itself before it beats its drum. Upon closer inspection of the paint, it appears that it is aged, the act of daubing committed many years ago. Here we see social acceptance of the act; the BLUT is not officially perceived as an act of vandalism, but rather an essential part of the monument itself: a third, postmodern plaque that has been added to the piece. It is the pretence of penance required, a social flagellation for the sins of the state’s past. It’s even possible to imagine that there might be a public outcry should the denizens of the city wake up to find the BLUT scrubbed away. Continue reading